NDP health critic disappointed with no capital dollars for Red Deer Regional Hospital

The NDP Official Opposition’s health critic is voicing his disappointment with the lack of any immediate capital funding for expansion of Red Deer Regional Hospital in the provincial budget.

David Shepherd, MLA for Edmonton-City Centre, says it’s concerning that only ‘planning’ dollars has been allocated at this time.

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“It’s certainly a concern I know has been out there in the community for quite some time, dating back to well before we came into government, under the PC era, be it concerns about both the hospital capacity and, of course, the catheterization lab,” says Shepherd.

“I know that Sarah Hoffman when she was the Minister of Health met with folks in the area, including those who had offered to make a fairly significant private donation to try to help kick-start the process, and in 2018, we did commit in that budget and delivered, $1 million to begin the planning process.”

Shepherd describes the Government’s current budget as a real loss of momentum for the project.

“Certainly I do have to commend MLA Stephan, he has spoken in the House and raised the issue, and indeed MLA Ron Orr from Lacombe-Ponoka has spoken about it as well,” notes Shepherd.

“Of course we recognize that Red Deer’s hospital is serving a number of communities in and around central Alberta. The question is whether the concerns they’re raising are being heard by their colleagues at the Cabinet table.”

Shepherd says it boils down to a question of government priorities.

“The first step they took was giving away $4.5 billion to big corporations,” he exclaims. “From there, they basically created themselves a hole in the budget that they’ve been struggling to fill. At least committing even a nominal sum to be able to continue planning, giving some indication in the capital plan that this continues to be a priority – some form of concrete action to show that they were moving on this issue.”

With another provincial budget anticipated next spring, Shepherd hopes the UCP will provide a more clear indication then of what their plans are for Red Deer Regional Hospital and central Alberta.

“We see there’s a cut of $11 million for EMS services, so for ambulance services,” adds Shepherd. “That’s particularly problematic in rural areas where they already have some struggles. That’s one of the issues with lacking a catheterization lab in Red Deer, is that individuals who do have a heart-attack, need to be rushed into Red Deer, and then from there, down to Calgary, so cutting ambulance services is not going to help in bettering that situation.”